We’re struggling through a pandemic. We need the best information available. We need accuracy.
Most of all, we need common sense and straight talk from the people who are attempting to lead through this. We need the advice we get from medical professionals and from pandemic and virus experts to make sense.
We’re not getting it.
Consider this paragraph from the World Health Organization’s website:
“Non-medical, fabric masks are being used by many people in public areas, but there has been limited evidence on their effectiveness and WHO does not recommend their widespread use among the public for control of COVID-19. However, for areas of widespread transmission, with limited capacity for implementing control measures and especially in settings where physical distancing of at least 1 metre is not possible – such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments – WHO advises governments to encourage the general public to use non-medical fabric masks.” (https://bit.ly/37GSrXr)
If there were an evaluation link on that webpage asking, “How helpful was this answer?” the answer would have to be “Absolutely not.” Everything after the word “however” is a direct contradiction of the words before it.
That’s not the way “however” works.
Part of the issue is that we’re watching science try to work in real time. We’re seeing fits and starts, signs of huge victories and indications of terrible defeats. As we’ve regularly been told about sausage and laws, maybe the worst thing about scientific and medical decisions is watching them be made.
Everyone with access to the internet can consider themselves experts in every field. Many do consider and present themselves as experts, even when the closest they’ve been to a laboratory or a hospital is picking someone up from there.
Jonas Salk didn’t have to listen to Twitter.
What the noise makes possible is, similar to television news, consumers can pick the news that matches their ideology and each person feels entitled to protect their view.
As more information becomes available, the way we react to the changes says more about us than about the professionals who daily study and deal with it. They didn’t think we needed masks, now we do. They didn’t think animals could get or transmit the virus. But surprise, they were proven wrong. We should be more quick to praise those who acknowledge they were incorrect than we are to damn them for updating their observations.
But we do encourage a language adjustment. We’ve found scientists are often sloppy with language. They’re not well-trained in nuance, and aren’t accustomed to interpretation of words and phrases. For their information to be clear, we need to demand fine details as they are available at the time.